Hunting and guns have always been a part of Mercer County’s history. Watch for the exhibit of guns at the Mercer County Historical Museum on Sunday, Oct. 23. (Photo courtesy of the Mercer County Historical Society)
Hunting and guns have always been a part of Mercer County’s history. Watch for the exhibit of guns at the Mercer County Historical Museum on Sunday, Oct. 23. (Photo courtesy of the Mercer County Historical Society)
By Joyce L. Alig

President

Mercer County Historical Society, Inc.

In recent years, on the first day of hunting season, many students stayed home from school that day, to go hunting. [Today’s school teachers do not overlook such truancy from classes!] Every hunter remembers his or her first gun. The hunting of deer, rabbits, squirrels, doves, ducks, turkeys, and raccoons has been a part of Mercer County’s heritage.

The 1888 and 1900 Atlases, identify the early land ownership of the M.C. Shooting Club, along Lake Mercer (Grand Lake St. Marys), in Franklin Township, just west of Behms Road, which is located one mile east of Club Island Road, and one mile west of the Auglaize County line. Today, several Sportsmen Clubs are located throughout Mercer County.

Early Mercer County Gunsmiths have been recognized by Donald A. Hutslar, in his book, “Ohio Gunsmith & Allied Tradesmen, 1750-1950, Volume III” of which the copyright is owned by The Association of Ohio Long Rifle Collectors. Hutslar recognized Mercer County Gunsmiths: C.H. Beach, J.J. Beach, Lee Cassel, Daniel Hardkoff, Albert King, John King, Philip P. King, Isaac Kohn, Christian Schiley, Daniel VanTrees, and James Frederick Van Trees. Hutslar’s book, and some of these early gunsmiths’ guns, will be on exhibit at the Mercer County Historical Museum, on Sunday, Oct. 23.

Shot guns and rifles have been used by Mercer County hunters. Winchester, Remington, Ruger, Savage, Mossburg, Smith & Wesson, Weatherby, Colt, H & R (Harrington & Richardson), and New England firearms have been popular with local sportsmen and women. A private collection of Winchester firearms will be on Exhibit at the October 23 exhibit at the Mercer County Historical Museum.

The Winchester name is well known. K.D. Kirkland’s book, “America’s Premier Gunmakers Winchester,” which provides the story of Winchester firearms, will also be on exhibit, Oct. 23. Oliver F. Winchester was born in Boston in 1810. At an early age, he served an apprenticeship with a carpenter. Winchester invested in the gun business in 1855 and became one of the original stockholders of a Repeating Arms Co.

Winchester went through business changes, and was able to participate in the sales of arms, to the U.S. Army during the Civil War. By 1867, Winchester Repeating Arms Company, New Haven Connecticut came into being.

By 1873, the Model 1873 Rifle and the world’s first center fire metallic cartridge, the .44-40 Winchester, were introduced. The Model 1873 was manufactured from 1873 until 1924, with a total production of 720,000 pieces. The largest production year was 1891, when over 41,000 Model 73’s were manufactured.

Designated “The Boss” by Buffalo Bill Cody, this was the gun that became legendary. Winchester was also talented in marketing, and advertised that Buffalo Bill Cody was one of his customers.

Winchester died on December 10, 1880, and his son’s brother-in-law, Wm. Converse, was elected to succeed him as president of the firm. Today, hunters are proud to own a Winchester.

Hunters are invited to bring their Winchesters and other guns to exhibit at the Mercer County Historical Museum, Sunday afternoon, Oct. 23, from 1 – 4 p.m. The public is invited to this exhibit.

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The Mercer County Historical Society President Joyce Alig may be contacted at 3054 Burk-St. Henry Road, Saint Henry, OH 45883, or histalig@bright.net or 419-678-2614.